Kupferschmidt offers two pieces in Science magazine on using two currently banned classes of drugs for therapeutic purposes: the party drug ecstacy
(3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA), and hallucinogenic compounds
derived from fungus or mushrooms (LSD and psilocybin).
NDMA activates brain receptors for dopamine and noradrenaline and releases serotonin from nerve endings, leading to the characteristic feeling of euphoria that made it popular in clubs and at dance events. One study in which 10 out of 12 PTSD patients no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD after two months of taking MDMA has motivated the launching of phase II clinical studies in Israel, Canada, and the United States.
LSD and psilocybin, which bind to serotonin and other brain receptors, are being tested in studies to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, cluster headaches, and nicotine, alcohol, or cocaine addictions.